‘For too long the church has tried to integrate biblical and nonbiblical thought forms to answer the questions of parenting. The resulting synthesis has produced bitter fruit.’ (p. 7)

I thought I’d try something extremely transparent. Below are the “Application Questions” (and my answers) from the end of chapter 1 of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp. We have had the book for a while and just received a second copy from the church when we had a family dedication with Rylan a few weeks ago. So I figure, if God is going through the effort for me to have this book (2 copies mind you), maybe I should read it. I have heard great things about it!

1. Explain the importance of dealing with the heart in discipline and correction in children.

Dealing with a child’s heart is important because, as Jesus said, our mouth speaks from the overflow of our heart, which can be easily and appropriately extended to our behavior. While the Bible calls us to be holy (1 Peter 1:14-16) as obedient children, the primary goal of the gospel and God’s salvation of man is not to have people who behave a certain way, but, simply, to have a people. It’s relational…which is only possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He ‘in’dwells us because God knows that the change must begin inside. Otherwise, he could have sat on our shoulder like the little cartoonish banter of the angel and devil whispering in our ear or guide us like the Great Gazoo. Our behavior is to be holy BECAUSE of our relationship with God; our relationship is not (nor CANNOT BE) a product of our holy behavior.

2. Describe the centrality of the heart in directing behavior.

Behavior is merely an expression, as it were, of the attitude and condition of our heart (as Jesus said). Even our reactions are a simple ,yet, revealing, result of the ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ of our hearts. One of my favorite passages (I have used it as a closing in almost every sermon I have preached) is Luke 6:43-45. Jesus teaches that, just as a tree is known by its fruit because the fruit comes from within, “the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Since none of us are good (Romans 3:23, Jeremiah 17:9) and, therefore, are incapable of bringing forth anything good, the only way to have good (better yet, redeemed) behavior, then, is to change what’s on the inside (2 Corinthians 5:17).

3. Why is is so easy to get sidetracked with behavior when issues of the heart are clearly so much more important?

Humanity, and American adults specifically, tend to ignore spiritual issues. We play the “if I close my eyes, you can’t see me” game. We convince ourselves that if we pretend spiritual issues don’t matter long enough, then they won’t. So, when it comes to behavior modification, we deal with what we can see and pretend the motivations & attitudes that drive those behaviors don’t exist or are unimportant (similiar to how we view God’s judgement). Also, I think, we fear and are intimidated by what we can’t see and by spiritual issues. It is easy to deal with behavior but much harder (requires more thought-work) on our part to get to the ‘heart’ of the matter.

4. What is wrong with change in behavior without a change in the heart?

Changing behavior while ignoring heart issues sidesteps the source of the problem and avoids one of the, if not THE, primary goal of parenting (Deut. 6:6-9) and Christians, in general. In evangelism, the goal is not simply to stop sinners from sinning, right? The same is true, and, perhaps, even more so, with our children.

5. If the point of discipline is to direct the heart, how does that change the approach to discipline and correction?

In the infamous words of Kathy Troccoli, “Everything changes, nothing looks the same through the eyes of love.” As Tripp says, we stop asking “Who had it first?” or “How many times have I told you ____?” in frustration. Instead, from God’s love within us, we start asking “How does your attitude, right now, offend or please God?” “What does God say in the Bible about ____?” Obviously, if I knew all of the answers to this, I would have written the book myself, but these are my initial thoughts. I think, primarily, for me, I stop viewing discipline and correction as one of the frustrations of parenting and starting viewing them as evangelistic/discipleship opportunities to be embraced.